Friday, April 30, 2010

A wha???

Ok. I saw this on the Angry Video Game Nerd's new video and thought OMGWTF? A Nintoaster!

I mean, sure the joke about the NES looking like a toaster has been around for quite some time.. but I think it must be sheer brilliance that someone actually MADE one of these things.

Not only that... he did a SNES version as well!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Link GET!

I have been trying to find links that are interesting to me... and are Famicom related.

First off, we have F*ck Yeah Famicom! which is a blog about everything Famicom. The guy there seems very nice and seems to have a passion for the Famicom.

Then there's a link to 101 PC Engine secrets! Now, I have a PC Engine, and love it... and some of these 'secrets' are more of 'didja know's than anything else. But some of them are very interesting and worthy to read.

The next one is a link to my girl in Japan, J-Idol and Famicom/retro game collector, Haruna Anno. Her love for games is really remarkable and she is making it a side-job of her's to write articles for Japanese magazines and websites about her passion.

And, I can't tell you how cool it is, but she's following me on Twitter! Now, in all honesty, it's probably because I subscribed to her Twitter first... but I can still hope that sometime she might actually go to one of my subtitled videos on Nico Nico... and shoot me an email.

Finally, here's an oldie but goodie. This is the scanlation of the old Famicom Disk manual. All I have to say is that Takashi is a choad!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love Review (PS2)

All I can say is: It took long enough!

The Sakura Wars franchise has long been a Japanese only game series with plenty of fan-boys begging for the title to be released overseas. And, after 14 years, it has finally happened. But the question now is, will people who were begging for the translated dating sims of Japan be disappointed, or will they want more? SEGA is hoping it will be the latter and so packed this copy of their popular Sakura Wars series with a large instruction booklet, a poster of the cover art, and a supplemental manual of characters, images, and layouts of the theatre where your headquarters are hidden beneath.

In Sakura Wars you play as young Lt. Shinjiro Taiga, a 'samurai' in training, who is sent to New York to lead The New York Revue Star Devision which is the team that protects the city. You meet seveal teammates along the way and begin to learn your way around the New York of the game... which is a sort of exaggeration and anime-esque version of the real thing.

When meeting and chatting with characters you will have many automatic responses, but sometimes you may notice that the dialogue box will be split into several different, sometimes quite cheeky, responses as is par for the course in Sakura Wars games. But be careful. Your responses are timed, and your responses are what endears you to your fellow soldiers. Get on their bad side, and they might not fight well beside you. Become dear friends with them, then they become powerful allies when you do enter combat. And don't feel like the middle path is the correct choice. Sometimes you may find that you get on someone's good side by being a little brash or curt with them. Each character reacts differently to specific choices that you make, and it's a very refreshing change to the usual RPGs where you will be sent on a specific path no matter what you say.

And that is one of the most entertaining parts of this RPG/Non-dating game. There's no grinding to raise the levels for your characters, it's all based upon how your relationships with them grow (or fail to, as the case may be). This will all help you when entering battle.

Now when it does comes time to kick some heads in, the combat system is actually quite enjoyable. You take control of one of the iconic steam mecha that is popular to the series and lead the team against enemy mecha. As always, the giant robots are beautifully designed and really bring the feel of the Sakura Wars genre to us. And the combat is fast paced and enjoyable. The controls are not stiff and are quite easy to get used to. There aren't a ton of sub-menus to choose from and so gets you going to the action quickly.

But should combat get a tad long, you can pause in the middle of a battle and save the game from the exact point you left off. Not many games of this genre have done this in the past and it is really refreshing to see someone finally take the lead and think about the players and things that may happen while playing a video game.

Unfortunately there aren't as many battle sequences as you might hope for making the need to forge tighter bonds with the other characters a bit confusing. This is where I actually would wish for it to be an actual dating simulation and not the non-dating simulation that it is. I mean taking out the grinding aspect to have your characters get better in battle seems silly if you don't go into battle that much. I personally would have enjoyed more combat opportunities and see exactly how powerful my relationships could get my crew. I would have to go back to my other Sakura Wars games, but I honestly think that those games had more combat opportunities than this version. But the choice menu does keep you busy by also allowing you to perform actions that will determine your skills in the game as well. Memory is key here as is skill with the controller.

As is usual for this series, it's the story that is the driving feature of the game, and is what will cause you to continue to want to play it. Thankfully, this is one story this is actually entertaining and enjoyable... if you like anime. The dating sims of Japan do not usually do too well here overseas as they are story driven and can get quite silly at times, and this one is no exception.

Now, with the ages of the characters, it is understandable that it is not a dating simulation game as the others of the series were, but just a relationship simulator. After all, the tender age of a few of the characters would be frowned upon should your character want to date them. But I think this was a necessary change to bring this overseas and try out their chops on a North American/European audience.

This is, however, a very good portal into the mindset of the Japanese dating-sim genre and, if you take it as such, you won't be disappointed. But the story, as good as it is, is completely silly and unrealistic. With gangster gunfights going on in the middle of the city and you unable to do anything to prevent it except “watch your own back” this portion of the game may lead to some people having a difficult time suspending their belief and just enjoying the game for what it is.

The voice acting in this title are not the worst I have heard. In fact, they're pretty good by normal standards. It appears to me that the actors are old hat at this and everything sounds good. The women don't go too over the top as is usually heard in these kinds of games and the male actors do fine work as well.

But, should you be a purist like me, then you can easily switch to the second disk that comes with the game and listen to the dialogue spoken in Japanese. Unfortunately you cannot switch between the two disks as you may want to, so make sure you choose your language preference ahead of time, because you're stuck with it for the rest of the game. This really makes no sense and is a problem that could have easily be fixed with a tiny bit of foresight. But the point really becomes mute if you are not the kind of person who likes voice acting and chooses to turn the voices off at the menu command.

Unfortunately you cannot turn off the music which is something I would have desired. The soundtrack is like that of the early Sega Saturn renditions of the game: hokey, embarrassingly short, and endlessly looping. It almost seems like they're using a midi track for most of it and it really brought my experience down a notch. With the disk space of the PS2 I would have thought that the developers would have put as much dedication to the background music of this game as they did for the voice acting, but it really seems like this game would have felt just at home on the Sega Saturn as it would on the PS2. I am all for Staying true to a series, but this game truly deserved much better music.

As always there are plenty of lockable to discover and these are, as is popular in dating sims, images of the characters and new outfits. In fact NIS America gives us the opportunity to unlock a lot of images and costumes from codes provided on their own site. Sure, it might seem to defeat the purpose of unlocking thins yourself, but given that it will take you quite some time to even get to that point, I think it's definitely something people will want to play just to get to that point.

So, what's the final verdict? Well, I would have to say that this is a must-own for any anime fan. The translations were done well and the storyline is something that is interesting not only to a Japanese player, but to those of us overseas as well. The team were very diligent in making sure that the Japanese was translated to the 'T' but this also results in some words that just don't feel natural for the characters to be saying, whatever time period that they might be living in.

Don't feel bad not trying out Sakura Wars out if anime is not your thing. This is, unfortunately a game meant for a pretty specific group of gamers. But if you are a fan of anime, an avid RPG player, or even someone who has a curiosity about the dating-sim genre then this will not disappoint you at all. Chock full of full-motion cut scenes, an enjoyable (if not ) combat system, and a entertaining relationship simulator all make this title a great amount of fun. Previous fans of the Japanese series will not feel slighted at all as it stays true to the other games in the series, but new players may need to give it the old 'college try' before realizing that there are some games out there that are good games not because of the combat system, but for a meaty storyline like this one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blogger is GO!

Hey all, I'm going to start posting again and keeping up on this blog. I thought it might be nice to have an area where I can post all of the things that I work on... kinda' "centralize" it.

So, I will be posting my TGWTG videos, the Kokugamer articles I write, and other stuff. I'll also see if I can't put a link to my Twitter to the side-bar there.

ON the other side, my wife is very happy that I am back home from my vacation. I cannot wait to show you all what I and several others have been working on.

Also, I am working on my Sakura Wars review which should be up either on Friday or Saturday... so look for that.

Sushi Go-Round Review (Wii)

Sushi Go-Round is one of the latest games coming from the SouthPeak developing group for the Nintendo Wii and DS, and is based off of the popular web-game of the same name. Following the trend of Japanese Anime, the web game had American Animeish characters along with a sushi theme. Because when you think anime, you think sushi.

Now, when I got the game, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had not played the online game and am not really a big fan of American drawn anime characters. But the gameplay surprised me and I quickly ignored the character designs and I was quickly drawn to the challenge.

The Object is to serve the customers of your sushi bar as quickly as possible. And instead of taking years to learn how to make sushi correctly, the game assumes you know these skills already. In fact, it appears that yuor sushi bar is the only place for miles around as people flood into the place as soon as one of your customers vacates their seat.

As soon as you serve the customers sit down, the game starts. You have to serve them a menu and, a few moments later, a small image bubble will appear over their heads requesting some of your mighty-fine sushi. Memorization is the key here and is imperitive to being good at the game as there are several kinds of sushi to prepare and serve. But, if you do forget a recipie, there is a sushi guide at hand to tell you the quantities of each ingredient to make something. But, you will loose time shuld you need to look at the book, so make sure you know how to make what.

Part of the challenge comes from the sushi being served on a conveyor belt. See, even though you make someone their particular sushi, a customer who decides to order more from you may request the same kind of food, and will snag that piece before the first customer can get it... making them a bit impatient.

Also, you run out of some ingredients fast and when you're busy you can't afford that. So you need to call in to make sure you are re-stocked quickly. You can get a rush re-stocking, but that costs you money and you lose some of your profits. But when you need nori wraps (dried seaweed) you need them now.

And, should one of your customers begin to become a tad impatient, you can always satiate their palates with one of the two sake bottles you are given at the beginning of the game. You only get so many at the beginning of each round, so use them sparingly.

There are plenty of new gameplay modes that have been added for the Wii version that will bring existing fans running to this version with Time-Attack, Puzzle, Endless Day, and Forbidden Modes. These are all a plus and, while there could have been more content, possibly even a sushi making tutorial to learn how to make REAL sushi, these are good bonuses to the game and fill it out a bit more than I personally was expecting.

All-in-all, the game is fun and creative. It's no wonder why they got a port ot the big-time consoles. The DS version is just a better version all around of this online game and comes with several extras and additions including the ability to use the DSi camera. The Wii game, however, is not not without its flaws as this kind of game really wasn't meant to be on a powerful console as the Wii.

The music is repetitive and annoying after a while. Now, even though they were trying to keep the feel of the online game, not creating more music for the Wii port was really a mistake. I found myself turning off the sound and even the sound effects within a few levels of the game. Perhaps getting some J-Pop music in there would have helped the game and might have warranted a soundtrack release. I mean the online game did have over 60 million downloads. Fans of the game would certainly pop out a few extra bucks for some good music.

The character designs are certainly a boost from the simplistic sprites from the webgame, but these look more like flash images and, while that isn't always bad, they do not look that great. When you make a game for any system you should really try to exploit the power of that system. If you don't feel that you can, then it should go to the portable hand-held. But, in their defense, the character images are not terrible and do have quirky actions to make them interesting to watch sometimes.

So yes, the best console to own this game on would be the Nintendo DS as it fits the idea of a portable game that can be accessed quickly and then put away on the fly. That's the whole point of this title anyways, and this game was made for that. Putting it on the Wii is a bit of overkill and doesn't feel... correct. It feels more like a shovelware title for the Wii than anything else, which is a shame.

But please don't let that keep you from buying the game for your portable console. It's a good and addictive game and drew me in right away, and I think that with a few tweaks it could have been a viable title for the Wii if they had taken a chance and strayed from the online game in a few aspects. And this is also not to say that people who were fans of the online game will not like it. In fact, I think they will really get a kick out of this version.

Was I entertained? Yes. A great deal, as a matter of fact. However, I just think that the game was a bit slap-dashed together and really could have used a bit more noodling-over before thrown into the market. The market changes so quickly that I can understand the desire to strike while the iron is hot, but for online games, the iron stays warm for quite some time. The evidence is there with PopCap games, and Sushi Go-Round really is no exception.

Zhu Zhu Pets Review (DS) NOT FOR ADULTS!

Zhu Zhu Pets may be relatively new on the market, only having come out in 2009, but they have created quite a stir in kids all over America. So it was only natural for there to be a DS game to come out for the cute little purring and cooing critters. But would it be any good? Well Cepia LLC teamed up with Activision to bring out Zhu Zhu Pets for the Nintendo DS and it's a cute little game.

You start with one Zhu Zhu hamster, but, after some playing around, you quickly start to unlock more furry little friends along with more games, more items for their home... does it ever stop?

The Zhu Zhus will wander on their own, if left alone, but to take them to the bathroom, to the food bowl, or even to the racetracks, you just need to place the DS stylus on them and move them to the area that you wish. And the little guys will let you know when they need something too, so there's no guess-work like there is in Tamagotchi. And all the actions are quick, so even sleeping takes just a few seconds. This way, you can get back to the action as soon as possible.

For a kid's game, Cepia really worked hard at making the Zhu Zhus look like little animated versions of the toys. The characters are cute and the animation is not choppy at all. Some of the items are a bit too plain for older players, but everyone will know right away what is the water bowl and what is the food dish. Sure the sprites of the characters may look plain, but they aren't trying to be something that they aren't. This isn't a thrilling tale about pirates or an alternate world with wizards. It's hamsters. So, really, the bright and friendly colours are all that is needed here.

The music is not a big part of this game and is mostly just so you can have something going on in the background so the game doesn't become boring. And, for the most part, the music is actually ok. Parents won't be cringing every time their kids turn on the game and kids probably won't be turning the volume down.

The voice actress, however, is a bit annoying. Ok, a LOT annoying. Even kids agree that her sugary voice (my words, not theirs) is just a bit too much. I think companies really need to look back to the days of the 'big purple monstrosity' and remember that talking to kids in a condescending tone doesn't work. And yes even though this game is aimed towards the younger kids, kids know when something is 'genuine', and this voice is not.

Usually for kids, games with hidden secrets in them can be complicated and confusing to understand and unlock, but not here. In fact the instruction booklet tells you everything you need to know on how to get more toys for your Zhu Zhus and how to get more, and different, hamsters. Even for the littlest of players, it is never too tough to know what to do for any of the many areas of the rooms. And, with more rooms unlocking all the time, there is plenty to do and it will never get old.

Some of the rooms do get more difficult and really help with that ol' hand-eye-coordiantion thing people like to talk about in video games so much. Well, it's true here. Parents might even enjoy trying their hand at getting Nibbles to the goal in time to get a gold trophy cup, while still trying to get as many coins and carrots as they can.

One of the missed opportunities of this game is that, with the internet connectivity of the DS, that compatibility with the online Zhu Zhu Pets website could have been possible. It would have been a nice addition to the game to be able to bring things you have unlocked on the website into the DS game.

Even bringing in your own hamsters that you had put in their respective codes would have been a nice touch.

Otherwise, this is a decent game version of the toys and I think that kids will enjoy this version a lot. And the addition of a baby Zhu Zhu will surely cause this game to fly off the shelves when collectors, young or old, get near.

On a Kid's 1-10 scale

Fragile Dreams Review (Wii)

'Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon' was released for the Nintendo Wii by XSEED games, a relatively recent company that has translated and released several top-notch Japanese games to the US public. The American version of Fragile Dreams is a direct translation from the Namco-Bandai produced version and comes out a year after the Japanese one was released in 2009.

In Fragile Dreams, you take control of young Seto who is, we are led to believe, one of the last survivors on Earth after an unnamed catastrophe has wiped out the majority of civilization. Throughout the game you fight ghosts whose spirits are locked into this world and will attack you if you get too close. You can collect weapons and items to help you out along the way, and several items have no other purpose than to be a link in the deep storyline that is presented to you. And yes, the story is deep, and it will be quite the challenge for young Seto as he looks for companions in this post-apocalyptic world.

Seto is controlled by pointing the wiimote at the television as if it were his flashlight... and since the majority of the world is in darkness, the game acquires a chilling feeling found only in horror games. By pressing forward on the nunchuck, he moves toward the point of light of his flashlight. This isn't the easiest of controls to use, but it will soon become second nature after just a few minutes of play. Turning around is a challenge, however, and this is the only fault of the movement system. Several times I found myself trying to turn around quickly but unable to do so quickly.

This is where the game excels. The animeish characters look enchanting and are really memorable. And while the eyes and mouths are not overly emphasised, each one displays a range of emotion just through their body language. The backgrounds are memorable and well crafted... and even though you can't interact with everything, it does show a desolated world with great success. Even the outside looks so vibrant that you can almost smell the dew and chill in the dawn air.

Now one of the great things that XSEED has done here is not ruin the backgrounds by erasing the Japanese kanji and ruining the background by putting in English... but instead they made subtle subtitles that appear when you look at words on a wall or on a sign. A class-act move. Now, every once in a while I did notice a floorboard or wall-spot flashing a brighter shade than the rest of the area, for just an instant for no apparent reason, but honestly, that's a truly minor complaint as the rest of the graphics are astounding and, dare I say, beautiful.

The music is just as lovely as the graphics are, and is another high-point for this title. The music fits perfectly with the story and it never gets old. I usually get tired with music in games as they repeat, but throughout this game I left the volume up, not only to hear the characters speak, but to listen to the music as it brings you deeper into the game. The music didn't try to become a bigger element in the title, but was content on only enhancing it. And if video game soundtracks are your thing, then you'll be happy to know that you can purchase the official soundtrack on iTunes for a very decent price.

Seto, Ren, and the personal frame were all done by amazing voice actors. Their recital of the lines felt natural and it was well worth listening to. But one of the problems was the lengthy pauses that were placed throughout their speech patterns after commas. And, as a personal plea, will someone please tell these gaming companies that it really is ok to hire children to voice children? I am so tired of listening to women do their best little girl voice and failing miserably.

While Fragile Dreams has an incredible storyline and amazing graphics, it is the gameplay where it falls desperately short. Combat is simple and unimpressive. There is a great deal of hand-holding at the beginning of the game compared to other RPGs. The enemies are not too challenging at the beginning of ther game, but get brutally difficult later on. Now, some of the tasks that Seto must fulfill are sometimes a bit confusing, even though there is a map on the screen, and it can be simple to get lost in what you need to do next. Luckily, picking up the wiimote and holding it like a telephone will sometimes enable one of your companions to give you a hint as to where to go next.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Its story-line, while a bit slow at times, really made you feel isolated and kept the feel of the game dark and foreboding. It made you feel quite alone while successfully keeping the spooky factor high. The characters were a complete draw-in for me and I felt true emotion for them. And if a game can make me feel emotions for the characters... then it's a game that usually sticks hard into my memory.

If you like story driven JRPGs and don't mind exchanging a complex combat system for amazing characters, visuals, and a deep storyline... then 'Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins on the Moon' is a game that will entertain and amaze you. XSEED has quickly become one of the companies that I consistently watch to see what they are bringing out next. Their dedication to gaming and accurate translations make them a heavy-hitter in today's market.